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Hill v. Buchanan

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

April 26, 2019

BRENDA L. BUCHANAN et al., Defendants.



         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendants Brian Hall, Belanger, McKee, Moran, Forrester, Jon Hall, Horton, Corrigan, Blemke, Bigger, Burke, and Stranaly.


          I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Michigan, where the events giving rise to his complaint occurred. Plaintiff sues MDOC Deputy Director Kenneth McKee and the following MDOC employees at URF: Warden Connie Horton; Assistant Deputy Warden J. Corrigan; Correctional Officers John Burke, Crystal Bigger, Brian Hall, and Unknown Belanger; Sergeant Unknown Blemke; Warehouse Manager Terry Moran; Business Manager Edson Forrester; and Quartermaster Jon Hall. He also sues the following employees of Corizon Health Inc., which provides healthcare to prisoners through a contract with t he MDOC: Re gi stered Nur ses Brenda L. Buchanan, Ressie A. Stranaly, Robyn L. Waybrant, Mary A. Guild, Amber C. Payment, Maria Bennett, and Tonya L. Winberg.

         Plaintiff alleges that he worked as a custodian cart puller at URF, requiring him to pull carts from one building of the prison facility to another. On the morning of February 2, 2018, as he was on his way to his work assignment, he nearly slipped and fell on a snow-covered walkway. When he arrived at his work assignment, he reported to Officer Brian Hall that the outdoor walkways used by prison staff were shoveled, but the walkways to the housing units were not shoveled. He told Hall, “I almost slipped and fell on my way here.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) Hall responded, “I think a strong young boy like you will make it okay.” (Id.) Plaintiff was wearing his state-issued “Oxford” shoes at the time, and he asked Hall if he could go back to his housing unit to get his work boots. Hall denied his request, telling him, “No, your state shoes will work okay.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff notes that the failure of prison staff to clear snow from the walkways in a timely manner was brought to the attention of the URF Warden's Forum at a meeting in January 2017. (1/25/2017 Warden's Forum Minutes, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.24.) In addition, at ¶ 2016 meeting of the URF Quartermaster Committee, the committee noted that state-issued shoes were “not intended to be used for . . . inclement weather.”[1] (10/19/2016 Quartermaster Committee Minutes, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.28.) Moreover, MDOC policy required that prisoners assigned to work “on grounds or maintenance work assignments” be issued “work boots” or “safety boots” “as needed due to the nature of the work[.]” See MDOC Policy Directive 04.07.112 ¶ L (effective Oct. 3, 2016).[2] Nevertheless, Hall required Plaintiff to use his state-issued shoes to complete his work assignment on unshoveled walkways.

         As part of that assignment, Plaintiff had to deliver a cart filled with buckets of cleaning solution to one of the housing units. After exchanging the full buckets with empty ones, he left the housing unit with the cart and stepped onto one of the snow-covered walkways. He lost his footing in the snow, and then the cart hit him in the calf, causing him to fall backwards. He put his left hand out to protect himself from the impact. When his hand hit the ground, he felt a sharp pain. He removed the glove on his left hand and saw a bone protruding from his fourth finger.

         Plaintiff got up and notified the unit officers of his injury. They allowed him to go to the healthcare unit. Staff at the healthcare unit washed his finger and applied gauze, ice, and a bandage. A physician gave an order to transport Plaintiff to the War Memorial Hospital for further treatment.

         At the hospital, Plaintiff received an x-ray of his finger. The x-ray showed a fracture in the “distal phalanx” of Plaintiff's finger. (Id., PageID.10.) Medical staff at the hospital gave Plaintiff antibiotics because the exposure of his bone put him at risk for infection. They also cleaned his finger and placed it in a splint. The physician at the hospital prescribed a course of antibiotics and pain medication, and told Plaintiff to return to the hospital if there was any sign of infection.

         When Plaintiff returned to URF, Nurse Stranaly reviewed Plaintiff's hospital discharge papers and informed him that the physician at the hospital had ordered antibiotics and pain medication. Nurse Stranaly told Plaintiff to report to the medication line three times a day.

         Plaintiff went to the medication line the following morning and received pain medication but no antibiotics. Plaintiff asked the nurse at the medication line about the antibiotics, but she reported that none had been ordered. Plaintiff indicated that the physician at the hospital had ordered antibiotics. The nurse promised to look into it.

         On the following day, February 4, the same thing happened. Plaintiff received his pain medication but no antibiotics. He asked the nurse and she promised to look into it. Sometime later (Plaintiff is not sure of the date), Plaintiff was finally given antibiotics.

         From February 2 to February 21, healthcare staff at URF changed Plaintiff's dressings, cleaned his finger with water, dried it, applied Bacitracin (a topical antibiotic), and re-applied his splint. (See, e.g., 2/11/2018 MDOC Bureau of Healthcare Services Soap Note, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.38.)

         On February 21, Plaintiff saw Nurse Jennifer Headley (not a defendant), who removed Plaintiff's metal splint and replaced it with a plastic one. She also scheduled Plaintiff for a visit with a doctor to determine a plan for further care. (See 2/21/2018 MDOC Bureau of Healthcare Services, Soap Note, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.39.)

         According to Plaintiff, on March 19, his finger began to show signs of infection. It was red, swollen, warm, and painful. His allegations are supported by a document prepared by Nurse Bethany Stain (not a defendant), who notes “signs of infection” in Plaintiff's finger, including “increased warmth, increased redness, increased swelling, [and] increased pain[.]” (3/19/2018 MDOC Nurse Protocol, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.40-41.) She consulted with a physician, who prescribed Ibuprofen and Bactrim DS, an oral antibiotic. (Id.)

         Following that nurse visit, Plaintiff's condition worsened. He developed two “holes” on the sides of his finger that started draining fluid. (Compl., PageID.11.) He sent multiple kites to healthcare services complaining about “severe” pain in his finger. (Id.) He was given only over-the-counter (OTC) medication for the pain.

         On May 15, 2018, Nurse Practitioner Brenda Buchanan ordered and obtained x-rays showing that the bone in Plaintiff's finger had not healed. She recommended an MRI to determine if there was osteomyelitis (infection of the bone). Plaintiff asked her for pain medication, but she gave him only OTC pain relief, despite his complaint that such medication had not been helpful.

         On July 6, 2018, an MRI of Plaintiff's finger confirmed that he had osteomyelitis with “surrounding cellulitis” and a “chronic fracture” of his digital phalanx. (Id.) Hill continued to complain about pain in his finger, and medical staff continued to give him ineffective OTC medication, such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Motrin.

         On July 10, Defendant Buchanan ordered a consult with an orthopedic specialist, Dr. S. Woolever (not a defendant). Over the next two weeks, Plaintiff sent multiple kites to healthcare services asking for the results of the MRI and complaining that his finger was infected. He asked for antibiotics and more effective pain medication. Apparently, he did not receive a response to his requests.

         On July 25, he met with Nurse Payment, who noticed increased signs of infection, including drainage. She allegedly “deferred” a decision on antibiotics at that time, [3] and gave Plaintiff OTC medication for his pain. By August 1, the infection in Plaintiff's finger had worsened. Plaintiff saw Nurse Payment again and she prescribed Cipro, another antibiotic, based on the results of a culture she had taken. (See 8/1/2018 MDOC Nurse Protocol & Clinical Progress Note, ECF ...

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